amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

amfAR Focuses on MSM at International AIDS Conference

August 12, 2008—amfAR and its TREAT Asia initiative had a visible presence at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City in August. The conference, which attracted 25,000 attendees, was organized around the theme of “Universal Action Now,” underlining the ongoing urgency of the worldwide response to HIV/AIDS.

 Mexico logo 

amfAR’s activities began two days before the full conference at a pre-conference event titled, “The Invisible Men: Gay Men and Other MSM in the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic.” The August 1-2 event, co-sponsored by amfAR, UNAIDS, the International AIDS Society, and others, directed attention to the growing need to fund global HIV research on MSM and improve prevention, treatment, care, and support for this vulnerable population. Jack Arayawongchai, program coordinator of TREAT Asia’s MSM activities, discussed the network’s success in strengthening regional MSM advocacy.

During the main conference, August 3-8, amfAR staff and affiliated researchers presented on topics ranging from HIV transmission and pathogenesis to substance abuse and harm reduction. Among the speakers were MSM Initiative director Jeffrey Stanton; amfAR Scientific Advisory Committee chair Dr. Mario Stevenson; and Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman, vice chair of amfAR’s Global Initiatives Committee and chair of the TREAT Asia steering committee.

TREAT Asia’s activities began with a symposium on August 4 detailing the progress of a project to evaluate the emergence of HIV drug resistance in Asia and Africa, run jointly by TREAT Asia, the PharmAccess Foundation, and AIDS Fonds.

Research data from the TREAT Asia HIV Observational Database were presented in poster sessions on August 4 and 5. A third poster presentation, “A quality assessment scheme to standardize the outcome of HIV genotypic resistance testing in a group of Asian laboratories,” was made on August 6.

Representatives of the Purple Sky Network—a TREAT Asia-coordinated association of more than 80 groups advancing HIV prevention and treatment among MSM in the Greater Mekong Sub-region—also presented two posters detailing aspects of the group’s work with MSM and summarizing their experience with peer outreach.

The theme of this year’s International AIDS Conference, “Universal Action Now,” emphasized the continued urgency of the worldwide response to HIV/AIDS, and called for individual and collective action toward ensuring universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support by 2010. “Universal Action Now” also served to remind activists, researchers, policymakers, and others that in the struggle to eliminate HIV stigma and discrimination, the underlying social injustices that contribute to this vulnerability, including poverty, gender inequality, and homophobia, must be addressed.

For more information on the conference, visit www.aids2008.org.